The American People Deserve Better

"The court needs a justice who understands how their decisions will impact the Nevadans that I am fighting for everyday day," writes Senator Catherine Cortez Masto.
Opinion
Catherine Marie Cortez Masto is a United States Senator from Nevada. She is a member of the Democratic Party.
2017-04-06T12:22:14-04:00

This week, the United States Senate is considering the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court. This is concerning for Nevadans and working families across the country because the next justice will make decisions that will seriously affect Americans in every facet of their lives for generations to come – from a worker’s right to organize to a woman’s right to choose.

There is no position more important within our legal system than a seat on the Supreme Court, a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, which interprets the constitutionality of our laws, determines the rights of the most vulnerable amongst us, and acts as a check on unconstitutional executive acts and laws. This is precisely why our nation’s highest court requires a judge with an independent legal mind who will uphold our Constitution and the separation of powers. Unfortunately, Judge Gorsuch is not that person.

Judge Gorsuch will not be an independent check on the executive branch, during a time where the Trump Admiration has shown unprecedented disregard for the rule of law and the role of an independent judiciary. Gorsuch is not a judge for the people; he is a judge for special interests handpicked by Washington, DC based special interest groups and conservative elites like the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society to act as a rubberstamp to President Trump’s extreme agenda.

I supported full consideration of Judge Gorsuch to ensure the American people were able to fully evaluate his record – adhering to my duties as a senator to advice and consent. I read his Tenth Circuit opinions and dissents, reviewed his record during private practice and at the DOJ, watched his confirmation hearings closely, and requested a one on one meeting with him – which he ultimately refused to do. After reviewing his record, it became very clear to me: Judge Gorsuch will not be an independent arbiter; in fact his record shows he will do just the opposite—he is eager to go beyond precedent and narrowly interpret the law so that it supports his predetermined outcome.

Gorsuch has consistently ruled in favor of the powerful over workers who have suffered employment discrimination, suffered accidents at their workplace or who were diagnosed with an illness that prevented them from continuing to work. Gorsuch ruled against people like Mr. Alphonse Maddin, who was fired after refusing to stay with his company’s broken trailer in life-threatening freezing temperatures and instead drove to safety. He ruled against Grace Hwang, a professor diagnosed with cancer who sued when her employer refused to provide her the medical leave recommended by her doctor. Gorsuch found the employer’s decision to be “reasonable” and rejected her lawsuit. Gorsuch has also been hostile to the rights of women, particularly with respect to their reproductive rights and health. He voted in the Hobby Lobby case, to bestow corporations with religious beliefs and put them over the rights of female employees’ access to contraception. There is no question, that Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation will be a step backward for women, people of color, LGBT Americans, individuals with disabilities and those with the least power and voice in our society.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide cases that will affect the lives of millions of Americans on issues such as immigration, worker rights, women's rights, LGBTQ rights, environmental protections, disability rights, to name a few. The court needs a justice who understands how their decisions will impact the Nevadans that I am fighting for everyday day.

The importance of this seat is the reason why there is a long tradition of requiring 60 votes to confirm nominees to the Supreme Court. Judges confirmed to the highest court in our nation must be confirmed with a bipartisan vote to avoid confirming ideological judges with a political agenda. Unfortunately, my colleagues across the aisle are threatening to change the rules to confirm Neil Gorsuch with a simple majority instead of 60, all but eliminating the minority party’s role in this confirmation process. This change threatens to politicize our courts, fundamentally change the way the United States Senate operates, and further polarize our country. This is not the time for the politics of fear and division. Instead, the United States Senate should be working to unite our country and find a consensus nominee for the Supreme Court.

My Democratic colleagues and I are more than willing to work with Republicans to confirm a qualified and independent nominee, but we will not let politics take control of our courts and undo the progress of the last 100 years. I hope my Republican colleagues recognize the serious ramifications that their unprecedented actions will have on the Court, the Senate, and our country. If Judge Gorsuch does not receive the 60 votes he needs to be confirmed, I urge my Republicans to withdraw his nomination and put forward someone who can gain bipartisan support.

The American people deserve better.